The first two F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters -A35-009 and A35-010 – to be permanently based in Australia arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown on Dec. 10.
The Minister for Defence, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, and Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, were there to welcome the aircraft and RAAF fighter pilots who flew the final leg in the journey from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, USA.
Minister Pyne said the Joint Strike Fighter will be a game-changer for the Australian Defence Force.
“This is the most advanced, multi-role stealth fighter in the world. It will deliver next generation capability benefits and provide a major boost to our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities,” Minister Pyne said. “The Joint Strike Fighter can get closer to threats undetected; find, engage and jam electronic signals from targets; and share information with other platforms.”
The Government is investing over $17 billion to acquire at least 72 Joint Strike Fighters.
“The Joint Strike Fighter is the largest acquisition in the history of the Royal Australian Air Force, and is a key part of the Government’s $200 billion build up in Defence capability,” Minister Pyne said.
The Lockheed-Martin-built Joint Strike Fighter will be operated by nine partner nations, reaffirming and strengthening Australia’s alliance with the United States and other key international partners including the United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark and Norway.
“In Australia’s immediate region, Japan and South Korea are in the process of procuring the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, and are closely aligned with Australia’s pursuit of shared strategic, security and economic interests,” Minister Pyne said.
Minister Ciobo said the aircraft created significant opportunities for Australian defence industry that was creating new jobs.
“Australian industry is manufacturing parts that will be fitted to every F-35 in production globally, and more than 50 Australian companies have directly shared in $1.2 billion in production contracts to date,” Minister Ciobo said. “Up to 1500 contractors have worked on the construction of the facilities to accommodate the F-35A at RAAF Base Williamtown, representing approximately $1 billion of investment in the Hunter region alone.”
“The arrival of the first F-35 aircraft to be permanently based in Australia is a historic occasion and we are proud of our role as the 5th Generation design pioneer and F-35 original equipment manufacturer,” said Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin Australia, Vince Di Pietro AM, CSC.
The two aircraft arrived in Australia following a cross-Pacific ferry from Luke Air Force Base Arizona and will be operated by the Air Force’s Number 3 Squadron. The F-35A Joint Strike Fighters will be based at RAAF Base Williamtown and at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.
Ten nations are currently flying F-35s, and with today’s arrival, Australia becomes the 7th nation with F-35 aircraft based locally on their home soil, joining the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Norway, Israel and Japan.
Additionally, with the formal stand-up of RAAF Williamtown, F-35s are now operating from 16 bases worldwide. More than 340 F-35s are operating today, more than 700 pilots and 6,500 maintainers have been trained and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 170,000 cumulative flight hours.